T Magazine | At Monse, Dressing Up the White Shirt
Even before Monse — a new fashion line helmed by the Oscar de la Renta alums Laura Kim and Fernando Garcia — debuted at New York Fashion Week, it had been worn by celebrities including Sarah Jessica Parker, Selena Gomez and Amal Clooney. (Thanks, in large part, to the stylists Kate Young and Erin Walsh, who were early champions of the brand.) “The week before the show, it was like, ‘Oh my God, if we don’t pull this off, it’s going to be really embarrassing,’” remembers Kim during a recent visit to the pair’s SoHo studio. To read on T Magazine: http://nyti.ms/1U8f23g
But the response from buyers and editors was immediately positive. Retailers including Net-a-Porter and Bergdorf Goodman began carrying the label, and Jessica Paré of “Mad Men” attended the Emmys in a fuchsia Monse gown. Since then, Kim and Garcia have been working on their second collection, which will show today at the High Line Hotel. They have again focused their collection around the white button-down shirt — which they use as a point of departure in everything from floor-sweeping gowns to cocktail dresses. “It was fun to take something that had an old, stale feel, and make it relevant for today,” says Garcia. “It wasn’t something that we already saw out there.” With their second presentation, both designers intend to expand on their first collection. Garcia notes that shirting will endure as one of Monse’s signatures — alongside new components such as drawstring detailing and embroidery.
Kim, 33, served as the studio director and head daywear designer at Oscar de la Renta during her 12-year tenure there, while Garcia, 28, spent six years there overseeing evening wear designs. Both left the label last spring shortly after the presentation of De la Renta’s final collection. The urge to strike out on their own felt especially timely for the young pair. “If we didn’t try it now, it would have been a missed opportunity,” says Kim.
For both designers, who are also partners in life, collaborating has always been easy. “We complement each other’s ideas. Whenever she took care of something for day, I’d make sure there was an evening version, and so on,” Garcia says. That fluid symbiosis continues today at Monse, but there is an obvious departure from the aesthetic of their former employer: Monse designs are not messy, per se, but slightly undone — and deliberately so. “We want to keep it looking as unfussy as possible. As long as it looks like something she put on in five minutes and walked out the door — that’s the mood we want to convey,” says Garcia. (The brand takes its name from his mother’s first name.)
With autumn layering in mind, the fall/winter 2016 collection includes many firsts for the brand: wool suiting fabrics, jackets, knitwear and slim, stretch lurex pants and tops. Sweaters featuring face-framing hoods are another fresh addition. “Our customers aren’t that conservative, based on what stores bought and what clients are ordering, so we’re going more adventurous,” says Kim.
Looking ahead, Kim and Garcia are considering the addition of a resort collection. They also hope to have e-commerce in time for their spring collection — since digital has always been a top priority. “Maybe it’s a generation thing, but when we look at fabric, we take a picture and look at it that way,” Kim notes. “Everything we see is through a screen now.”